Neverwinter Nights was a formative game in my childhood. It, Baldur’s Gate, and to a lesser extent the Temple of Elemental Evil were my first steps out of the action-oriented world of Diablo 2 and into full-blown role playing games. At a tender 12 years of age, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I didn’t care because I was a frickin’ wizard!
It is with this nostalgia in mind that I sadly have to say that you should probably avoid its remaster on PlayStation 4.
Neverwinter Nights was originally released in 2002, with Bioware following on from the excellent 2D CRPGs Baldur’s Gate by taking a bold step into the realms of 3D. Unfortunately, that means it looks like arse these days. Early 3D is notorious for how badly it ages and this is no exception; everything is rough polygonal shapes, there’s plainly textured buildings, and it’s all been disguised by thick fog and dark environments to try and hide its worst sins. Because of that it can occasionally look relatively alright, but the rest of the time everything looks a little rudimentary, more like the simple textured shapes that they are than the buildings and environments they’re meant to represent.
Series veterans will no doubt not mind at all, but newcomers may struggle to get past it. At least the game runs smoothly and at high resolutions, but this paradoxically just makes the almost decades old graphics stick out all the more.
Even the CGI cutscenes look poor, as they don’t seem to have been fiddled with at all. They’re blockier than Minecraft and stretched to fill the screen in an ugly fashion. Sometimes you can even see the previous screen behind them rather than the customary black border.
The presentation continues to be an issue throughout, as the UI is exactly the same as it was 18 years ago. That would be fine if you’re playing on PC with a keyboard and mouse as it was originally designed for, but here I am playing Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on console with a controller in hand.
It’s not always obvious which option in a menu is highlighted, or which option will be highlighted when you try to change selection, occasionally turning menu navigation into a guessing game. When it is time to sell all your loot to a shop, what would be a simple drag and drop with a mouse becomes a finnicky ordeal with an analog stick. On the plus side, the radial menus the game uses for in-game actions actually work pretty well with a controller, even if it’s still a little awkward to keep track of where the things you want are, as there are far too many of them.
The one place where Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition really excels is with the wealth of content available to you. Alongside the original campaign, it has two expansions included, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark, as well as a load of modules to play through. All of this can be played with online co-op as well, though on PlayStation 4 you’re missing out on cross-platform multiplayer and the Persistent Worlds, two player-run campaigns that are hosted online and support hundreds of players at a time. That’s a shame when Neverwinter Nights was a game that tried to capture more of the tabletop RPG vibe than previous CRPGs had managed.
Even so, there’s well over a hundred hours of some of the best-written RPGs of all time, and a ton of additional curated content. If you can look past the shortcomings of the dated presentation and lacking polish, you’ll see why this is one of the most highly regarded RPGs.